Growing up in my household, weekend relaxing was synonymous with reading the newspaper. After the grocery shopping was done I would open whatever food I’d snuck into the trolley when dad wasn’t looking and sit down to read the paper. It was usually a family affair with my parents, brother and sister peeling off their favourite sections of the paper. “Who has the Good Weekend?”… “Claire, did you leave it in the bathroom… again?” Happy days.
Now I usually get my weekend news fix browsing on my iPad or laptop. And not just one source either, I browse lots of different news websites and social media platforms to get my information. And I’m not alone on this one.
At the Sydney Writers Festival on Friday night I attended a talk on creating good political journalism called “Can’t be that Hard”. The topic was based on a recent comment from Julia Gillard to journalists at the National Press Club “Don’t write crap. It can’t be that hard”.
The panel consisted of Malcolm Turnbull, George Megalogenis, Lachlan Harris, Annabel Crabb, Peter Hartcher and Barrie Cassidy (facilitator). They were asked to discuss whether the quality of political reporting had taken a downturn, if the standards should be raised, and the responsibility the media plays in our political culture.
They each offered some unique insight on the topic but one thing that stayed with me was what Malcolm Turnbull had to say. Full disclosure: I’m not totally aligned to any political party, but I am a bit of a fan of Turnbull (and not just because once he replied to me on twitter).
Turnbull described how the entire business model of newspapers has changed. While the growth in online media means there are more readers than ever, commercial news reporting has shifted dramatically and they haven’t been able to monetise the new system effectively yet.
This decrease in revenue has meant companies have a reduction in resources for creating quality journalism. There are less journalists in the field who have to write more content. Journalists’ now have hourly deadlines as opposed to daily ones. There is an increased pressure and decreased pay for journalists. This has lead to a loss of experienced journalists in the field. Research and investigative journalism consumes a lot of time and resources, so cheaper to produce opinion pieces and blogs are used to supplement content. The combination of these factors has resulted in an overall decline of quality reporting.
The decline of journalism is a threat to democracy. Imagine if you took away reporting altogether. Without a local newspaper who would pull up the local government for shoddy roadworks? Without state-based and national news services who would criticise the government’s pension allowance for free air travel, office staff and access to cars and drivers for former state premiers? And WHO would take things politicians say out of context and create a story about nothing?
Ok, so it’s not all completely necessary, however journalism does play a large role in making the government accountable for their actions. The demise of quality reporting is a threat to the very structure of our society.
I had never really considered this issue from this perspective so I wondered what your thoughts on this are.
Do you feel that the quality of political journalism has declined? If so, is this a threat to our democracy? Is the solution to buy more newspapers and/or subscribe to quality online journalism? Are places like the ABC and The Global Mail our only hope for quality journalism? Will they last?
I don’t know the answers, but am interested in what you think. Meanwhile, I’ll just make sure my sister doesn’t take to leaving my iPad in the bathroom.